By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Matt Fletcher has worn orange in many ways, figuratively and literally.
The Oklahoma State University concierge can lay claim to being an alum, a fan and a recognizable face for the university. While most fans wear orange shirts, Fletcher’s first claim to fame was as the front row spectator covered in orange body paint at OSU basketball games several years ago. It’s been a few years, so many current students may not know about his super fan days.
“The students now, it’s a lot more hit and miss with them because it’s getting to be three years ago since I’ve done it,” he said.
Now, Fletcher is recognized as the man with the microphone at OSU football games. However, every once in a while, someone will remember him for the orange and makeshift pom pom hula skirt, including one student who came to him at the information desk in the Student Union, where he can be found daily, with a question.
“Well, I just got this orange and black kilt and I was wanting to wear it to the football games, but I know the skirt thing is your thing, so I wanted to make sure you were OK with it before I did it,” the student said.
Fletcher gave him the OK and told him he could wear whatever he wanted.
As a freshman in 2004, Fletcher found himself in an environment where other fans encouraged dressing up or being spirited about their team.
“I just happened to be the sore thumb that was sticking out, but it worked out in my favor,” he said.
Fletcher’s sister attended the university and he visited numerous times. He said he loved the campus and when it came time, he only applied to attend OSU. He chose broadcasting as his major. Over time, he began to feel public relations was a better fit.
“I was like, ‘I don’t have a face for television or anything and I don’t feel comfortable talking in front of people like that,’ which is incredibly ironic for where I am now,” he said. “It makes absolutely no sense.”
The origins of his costume begin at the 2006 Bedlam football game where he and friends camped out for 28 days to get their front row seats.
“We go into the game and we’ve got our chests painted already,” Fletcher said. “They’re handing out pom poms at the door. Me and my buddies grab a couple and shove them in our shorts like, ‘Hey, this is funny.’”
As basketball season approached, he stuck with the skirt, paint and backwards hat. It stuck for four years, he said.
Even the orange body paint has its own story. Fletcher said he didn’t know its origins, but he had a can of green body paint in his room freshman year.
“I don’t know where it came from, but my roommates were kind of bickering and the girls that lived down the hall, my sister and her roommates, everyone was just in a bad mood,” he said.
Attempting to lighten everyone up, he smeared the paint on himself and ran out into the living room.
“(I thought) it was going to solve everyone’s problem, which it absolutely didn’t,” he said. “Everyone was like you’re an idiot.”
A bigger issue was that the paint was grease-based and wouldn’t wash off.
“The next day, we played Baylor,” he said. “So, I was a tint of green for the Baylor game, which was pretty embarrassing.”
He went to a local costume store to get similar paint, but in bright orange.
“Hot games, you can’t sweat it off,” he said. “If it rained, it could be a complete downpour, it would still not come off. I would look just the same. Whereas other body paints, people would sweat it off or it would crack.”
After games, Fletcher found that a bit of grease-fighting dish soap would do the trick well enough. However, a small tint of orange remained on him and his shower.
Fans began to recognize him while he worked his college job at a local grocery store.
“I try to lay low,” he said. “It’s funny because when I was painting up, I was a cashier at Food Pyramid. I worked at Food Pyramid all through college, so I’d be checking out someone’s groceries and we’d be talking and they would just look at me with that weird look. I knew exactly what they would be thinking.”
Many would connect the dots, however, one time sticks out.
“I had a person who saw me and said, ‘Oh yeah, you’re that guy with the ugly hat at the basketball games,’” he said. “I had the same hat that I had for nine years and it was disgusting brown. That’s what he called me on.’”
In his current role, he still works to keep the crowd involved in cheering on the Cowboys on weekends and during the week he wears numerous hats, ultimately making sure that every visitor or student has a good experience on campus. He hasn’t donned the paint in a while, he said.
“I joked that I’ve gained a little weight since then and so I can’t afford to paint because the paint is expensive and I’ve got more ground to cover with it,” he said.
“I (also) joked last year that if we ever sold out Gallagher-Iba that I would paint. Luckily, no one called me on it because we had a couple games (get close).”
Fletcher said it’s been an unlikely path.
“It’s unreal and I could not be luckier to be in the position I am right now,” he said. “It’s one of those things where people have their jobs and they say, ‘Hey, I have this much money and I do OK.’ But, I am genuinely happy to come to work every day. There’s always something fun going on. There’s always new people to meet. It’s just so much fun.”